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Legal technology
11 min read

A Comprehensive Guide to Legal Technology

Legal technology has come a long way in the last 70 years. Dictation machines were the height of sophistication in the 1950s, and lawyers still had to go through librarians to complete research. 

Over time, legal technology has evolved to not only help legal teams do their jobs more effectively but also to disrupt the status quo of the traditional industry. 

Today, legal tech includes enterprise legal management, machine learning AI, and contract management solutions, all of which support legal as a value driver in modern businesses.

Here’s how they got there.

What is legal technology?

Legal technology is any software or tool that helps lawyers and legal professionals execute legal services. 

Examples of legal technology include:

  • Contract management
  • Document automation
  • eSignature
  • eDiscovery
  • Case management
  • E-billing
  • Analytics
  • AI

A huge chunk of an in-house legal team’s job includes drafting, reviewing, and researching large volumes of text. All these tasks are time-intensive and require tremendous focus. Technology helps relieve some of these burdens and expands legal’s capacity and bandwidth. 

Legal technology helps lawyers perform tasks faster and with fewer errors, giving them confidence in their ability to protect the business. Technology lets legal teams embrace their role as a revenue generator by automating, sorting, and reviewing tedious legal tasks and allowing lawyers to spend time on more strategic initiatives.

The evolution of legal tech: 1970s to now

From computer-assisted legal technology (CALR) — which was basically the Google for case law in the ‘70s — to end-to-end contract lifecycle management (CLM), legal technology has evolved over time to help legal teams handle the burden of text-heavy work with increasing efficiency.

Working with the system: 1970s & 1980s

The ‘70s and ‘80s kicked off legal’s adoption of technology as more companies created tools that help them manage research, word processing, and case management.

Before Lexis launched CALR, lawyers did research the old fashioned way: combing through case law and consulting law librarians. This was a tedious process that resulted in notoriously long hours. But in 1973, LexisNexis (known back then only as Lexis) created the red “UBIQ” terminal, which allowed lawyers to conduct research independently. 

Personal computers and word processors also hit their stride in the 1970s and ‘80s. Lawyers adopted these tools to create, edit, and store important legal documents in half the time it usually took.

Despite the increase in tech adoption in the ‘70s and ‘80s, many legal processes looked more or less the same. These tools were designed to help legal teams work more efficiently within existing systems, making previously manual work digitally accessible.

Pushing boundaries: 1990s & 2000s

In the 1990s and 2000s, the legal industry started to test the limits of the existing system. The dot com bubble expanded (and burst), and more and more internet companies gained popularity. 

Before then, computers were connected on smaller, more private networks, and lawyers could only send emails within networks. But when the internet exploded in the 1990s, it inspired new ways for lawyers to make use of the web and communicate outside  small networks. 

Likewise, cloud computing took off in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, as several business executives envisioned a future state in which businesses stored crucial files and hosted entire applications in the cloud.

This set the stage for other types of legal technology to push the boundaries of what they’d been previously capable of. For one, laws like ESIGN and UETA legalized eSignatures and enabled legal to securely move one of their most manual (collecting signatures) processes into a digital state.

This set the foundation for further expansion of cloud software and what we’ve come to know as legal’s digital transformation.

Digital transformation and disruption: 2010s to today

In the last decade or so, more legal tech companies have been entering the market and building tools that empower legal teams to do more. With a strong backbone of cloud computing and the Internet, legal technology today disrupts the status quo in the legal industry.

The 2010s saw the development of a significant number of cloud-based legal technology in a distinct move away from on-prem software. This indicated legal’s readiness to innovate and move with the tides of modernity.

Legal technology tools like CLM, legal task management, and eSignature have transformed over time into robust solutions that manage entire processes rather than individual pain points. 

This disruption aligned with the shift in legal responsibilities. In addition to a risk assessor, legal is now seen as a strategic business partner that contributes to the bottom line. As a result, in-house teamsuse technology for analytical insights and process improvements. Likewise, smart contracts, blockchain, and AI are relatively new, but are facing increasing adoption.

Together, these tools help legal to be an innovative business driver instead of a bottleneck. Rather than working in the existing system or pushing boundaries, the technology of this new era reflects a new way of doing things and empowers legal to put their best foot forward.

The future of legal technology

The digital transformation of legal technology is just beginning. AI tools are becoming increasingly popular and revolutionizing efficiency across the industry. Of course, this means more lawyers are starting to worry that AI will replace them.  —  this is highly unlikely.

Legal technology will continue to evolve to fit the needs of the industry. As we move into an increasingly connected and remote world with unstable economic conditions, the technology that integrates with the rest of the ecosystem and automates the most tedious parts of legal processes will have the most longevity.


The development of legal technology is ongoing. Though the legal industry is still pretty conservative, they’ve moved from basic dictation software to comprehensive software solutions. Embracing legal technology in your business is a major key to staying competitive and getting more done with less. See how legal technology can change your legal team.

Alyssa Verzino is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkSquares.